(Or to homesteading, self-reliant, self-sufficiency or any other word or phrase you choose to use.)
A Rose by Any Other Name
It doesn’t matter if you consider yourself a homesteader, self-sufficient, self-reliant or ‘living off the land’ – your main goal is to live a lifestyle that is simple. Where you produce as much of your own food as possible and lessen your dependency on grocery stores, large incomes and the world itself. Your reasons may vary, your methods may be different, but overall, your goals are the same.
Over the past fifteen years, our goals have shifted somewhat. When we first moved to the farm, I had four pages – single spaced – of things I wanted to do on the farm. In the past fifteen years, many of those things have fallen by the wayside (I just could not figure out how to build an air conditioned barn in order to raise wool sheep on a farm in the South with our budget, no matter how hard I tried). And that is okay. To be able to reach our goals to live as sustainable as possible, the first rule is to be realistic and practical. Each and every day, we are learning that rule again and again
Think About This
For those of you who are considering a more sustainable lifestyle, here are a few of the things I have learned and implemented for our farm. Some just came easy. Some got added after I learned the hard way. And I will probably add more as time passes. But hopefully these will get you started, and give you an idea of what really needs to be done.
You cannot start a journey unless you know where you want to go. Even if you have no destination in mind, you still need to know if you want to turn left or right out of the driveway. Write down what your end goal will be (complete self-sufficiency, including living off-grid or trimming the budget through growing some of your own food). Then start working backwards.
Set Mini Goals
When you figure out where you want to go, it is then time to draw a map. If you are interested in complete self-sufficiency (to the extent that you can be), then you need to determine what the next step will be. In most cases, that is providing as much food as possible, so #1 on your list is to set up a garden. Make the list as long or as short as you want. Ours looked something like this:
a. Establish gardens
b. Build a better chicken coop
c. Repair fence for pastures w/ cows
d. Improve hay-cutting pastures
e. Purchase any additional canning/food preservation supplies
Get on the Same Page
There is nothing worse than having a goal, only to find out your spouse or partner doesn’t want the same thing. Even here on the farm, the Country Boy has goals in mind that are totally different from mine. We have to work together – even fitting in each other’s goals and plans – in order to make this farm work. Even if your significant other doesn’t agree to your ideas, at least try to get them on board with your own attempts. Remember, unless you have separate bank accounts, joint funds will be spent to reach your goals. At the very least, you need to set up an allowance or line item in your budget that says you can move forward. Once you both agree on your goals, then move to the next step.
Create a Business Plan
You may not consider your home a business, but you would be surprised by how helpful a business plan can be. It will help you determine your mission, your goals, the state of your finances and help you identify potential problems and pitfalls. To be able to see ahead of time what is realistic, feasible and practical can save you a world of hurt in the long run.
Set up a Budget
It may save you money down the road, but getting started can be costly. You need to know exactly how much income you have each month, and how much you are spending. You can use this budget to ‘trim the fat’, so to speak. Do you really need those $150 – $600 shoes? The clothing line can easily be cut. Is eating out and going to the movies truly imperative? If you learn to cook at home and rent movies that line can easily be cut as well.
Take each line item in your budget and figure out how you can cut your expenses. You will be surprised how easy it will be if you keep your self-sufficiency goal in mind. Need help knowing exactly where your money is going? One way is by using an Income & Expense Spreadsheet, like this one. It is designed to track your income and expenses in most farming categories. There is also a chart attached for quick reference on how you are doing financially in any given area.
Or, you can keep a notebook with you and write down every time you spend. Where did you spend it? What did you spend it on? How much did you spend? This is a great way to find ways to cut expenditures. Note: Just because you ‘saved’ ten cents on a $1.00 item, you still spend $.90. Did you really need it, or did you just buy it because you had a coupon? If it was truly necessary, was there another brand that would have cost you $.79? Ask yourselves these questions before you let that coupon tempt you to spend.
We spend less money on monthly bills (mortgage, utilities, etc.) on 60 acres than we did living in a small house in the city. In fact, I am technically 90% debt free, with that other 10% being the mortgage. But the money saved goes straight to the cows, chickens and gardens, at the very least.
With the way things are going in the world, we are beyond grateful that the Country Boy even has a job, and that I am able to do part time work to help with necessary income. If we didn’t have any savings and something major happened, we would be in a world of hurt. My Mama gave me words of wisdom when I was young, and I still do my best to follow her guidance: ‘Pay God first, yourself second, and do everything in your power to live on what is less.
No matter how tempting, always strive to live below your means.’ It isn’t always easy. Many times I have failed – due to my own stupidity or just having to deal with major catastrophe after major catastrophe. But by the grace of God, we are still on this farm. And even when the savings account balance is barely enough to keep it open, as soon as I can, I put more in – even if it is only $5.00. It really does add up. And there will come a time when you need it.
Do Your Research
There are so many aspects of living a simple life. Start reading, researching and learning all you can. I have a library of favorite books that I obtained after we purchased the farm, but before we actually took possession. Look at that list you made, and start reading all you can. There are also groups on Facebook whose members range from beginners to as-close-to-expert as you can get. I learn something new every day from them, and on rare occasion, I am able to teach something to them. But don’t think you can’t get started because you haven’t read all there is to know about it. Trust me – you will never know everything. Let me give you a little push…
Stay tuned for The Road to a Simple Life – Part 2
In the meantime:
Are you interested in learning more about self-sufficiency, homesteading or self-reliance? Here are a few things I may be able to do to help:
1. Visit me in the Product Review Book Section for several books on subjects ranging from Weekend Homesteading to Financial Management and Recordkeeping.
2. Check out some easy and delicious Recipes.
3. Head over to the DIY page to learn how to do a few simple projects.
4. Stop by the Self Reliance Challenge – 2019 page for a list of some great websites by homesteaders from all walks of life. There are any number of folks there that will be happy to answer your questions.
For even more information, read 30 Days to a Simple Life for a list of things you can do to get your own Simple Life journey started.
And if you still have questions or need information, just drop me a line in the comments. If I can’t help you, I know plenty of people that can!